Group to help Macarthur residents mourn loss of their pet

Vicky Nonas with her beloved cattle dog.
Vicky Nonas with her beloved cattle dog.

"The loss of a pet isn't the same as losing a human - it's a different kind of grief."

That's the belief of By My Side founder Vicky Nonas.

The qualified counsellor offers pet grief counselling and regular afternoon teas to help Macarthur residents who might be struggling with the loss of a pet.

Ms Nonas said losing her beloved Australian cattle dog started her journey into helping others.

"He lived a long life, he was 18-and-a-half years old when he was diagnosed with cancer and we had to put him down," she said.

"I got him at 15 so he was with me into my thirties and we had been through a lot in that time.

"I just fell apart - I knew it would be hard but I didn't know just how hard it would be."

Ms Nonas said she felt there was a lack of empathy and understanding surrounding the loss of a pet.

"There was almost a dismissal of how I was feeling, but the more I spoke to people I began to realise I was not crazy," she said.

"I was functioning but I was missing him a lot.

"So I started studying and researching and became a counsellor so that I could support other people.

"The more people I spoke to and the more research I did I realised that this is completely normal.

"The loss of a pet can be quite profound.

"People are not capable of giving unconditional love like a pet can - there is no judgement from a pet."

Camden residents form a large part of the people that Ms Nonas works with.

She said locals regularly attended her afternoon tea events.

"I think the people who come have a bit of an 'ah-ha' moment because they see other people in the same boat," Ms Nonas said.

"This is a safe space - we do shed a tear or two - but it is some caring and empathetic time with people who understand."

Ms Nonas is also hoping to host a Pet Memorial Walk in the Camden area this year.

The next afternoon tea gathering is on February 17, followed by March 31.

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